Yesterday, Hillary Clinton met with DACA-mented immigrants in Nevada to discuss their families’ plans and dreams for the future.
The roundtable at Rancho High School in Las Vegas was important because it provided a national platform for immigrants to share the personal side of what is typically portrayed as an abstract “policy” issue. It illustrated the fact that immigrants are already a part of life in America, and removing 11 million people and their families from our country is not a goal we can or should embrace. It communicated the fact that immigration reform is “about everybody.”
Clinton talked about the fact that undocumented immigrants in New York pay more in taxes than some of the state’s largest corporations, and said that “the sooner we can get to legalization, the better the job market will be very everybody [because] employers will not be able to violate the laws . . . dealing with a workforce that is scared to say anything.”
For the immigration voter community, however, the most important part about yesterday’s event was the series of changes Secretary Clinton committed to making if elected president. If implemented, these changes would improve the lives of immigrants and their loved ones dramatically. The immigration reform movement is not new, and it is not naïve. We have a lot of experience with politicians who make promises during campaigns that they fail to live up to in practice. We also have experience holding politicians accountable to their commitments and ensuring that they actually do enact change.
Following are some of the pledges Clinton made to the immigration voter community. This is a platform we intend to follow-up on throughout the campaign, and ensure the candidate follows-through on if elected:
- Prioritize immigration reform in her campaign and her presidency: Clinton introduced immigration reform as a key plank in her agenda to “strengthen families and communities.” She said: “I pledge to you I will do everything I possibly can to make this an issue in the campaign but more importantly, when I am President, to put it on the top of my priority list.”
- Work to pass comprehensive immigration legislation with a path to citizenship for aspiring Americans: “I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for you and for families across our country,” said Clinton. “The American people support comprehensive immigration reform not just because it’s the right thing to do—and it is—but because it will strengthen families, strengthen our economy, and strengthen our country. That’s why we can’t wait any longer, we can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship.”
- Recognize that immigration reforms are about people, not “policies”: Clinton decried the consequences that real people have felt due to the Republican-led lawsuit against DAPA and DACA expansion: “Several of you have mentioned how the lawsuit . . . has stopped plans for new businesses, for going to school, what you are going to do when you graduate.” Republicans who oppose executive action or support the lawsuit want to pretend this is all a debate about policy and legal authority. Clinton’s roundtable introduced the personal aspects of the story they have been trying to avoid. Clinton also showed a new degree of empathy and awareness about what it means to live a life in limbo—something the immigration voter community is all too familiar with. She said “certainty is really important. Predictability. Regularization, if you will. People need to know what is going to happen.”
- Protect and expand executive action: Clinton pledged multiple times to protect and defend the Obama Administration’s executive actions. She also committed to going further if Congress continues to obstruct a comprehensive solution. “[I]f Congress refuses to act, as President I will do everything possible under the law to go even further. There are more people—like many parents of DREAMers and others with deep ties and contributions to our communities—who deserve a chance to stay. I’ll fight for them too. The law currently allows for sympathetic cases to be reviewed, but right now most of these cases have no way to get a real hearing. Therefore we should put in place a simple, straightforward, and accessible way for parents of DREAMers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to make their case and be eligible for the same deferred action as their children.” In addition to her unequivocal support for a “full and equal” path to citizenship in legislation, Clinton’s stance on executive action forms a sharp contrast between her and the entire Republican field.
- Prioritize enforcement and reunite shattered families: Clinton also acknowledged the need to do more to prioritize enforcement and avoid splitting up American families. But she didn’t stop with making promises for the future. She also recognized the fact that good families have been torn apart by cruel deportations already, and they deserve a shot a reunification: “I will try to do everything I can to avoid family breakup, avoid the kind of terrible experience many families have gone through, because they were split up. Half of their family, or the breadwinner, is picked up and gone one day. It is not smart and it is not right. And still, [I will] try to go further like the unification of families that have been split up.”
- Stop putting “vulnerable groups” in prison-like immigration jails: Clinton also showed a new level of concern over the way our so-called “civil” immigration detention facilities operate more like criminal jails—and the fact that our nation continues to incarcerate children, refugees, and others who should not be detained. “I think we have to do more to provide safe environments for vulnerable populations, that certain includes the LGBT community, children . . . There are groups of people who deserve a higher level of care, because of the situations they find themselves in. I also think we have to reform our detention system. I’m not sure a lot of Americans know a lot of the detention facilities are run by private companies. They have a built-in incentive to fill them up. There is a actually a legal requirement that so many beds be filled. So people go out and round up people in order to get paid on a per day basis. That makes no sense to me. That is not the way we should be running any detention facility,” said Clinton.
(Quotes taken from C-SPAN closed captioning transcript: http://www.c-span.org/video/?325829-1/hillary-clinton-town-hall-immigration-nevada)